Jewish World Review March 15, 2002 / 2 Nisan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | PARIS "So what was the big deal?" The Europeans seem to ask about 9/11. Sure it's too bad 3,100 people died, but, hey, terror has been stalking Parisians and Londoners for decades. Why get all excited?
The Europeans are not anti-American. They just don't get what we're so upset about. When we talk of going after Iraq, they wonder why we would bother all of a sudden. There is an almost total lack of comprehension of what 9/11 means to Americans, of any understanding of the depth of our national resolve to banish terrorism and destroy the regimes that sponsor it.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's strong support for the United States, which we take as a normal response to the barbarity of the terrorists, is almost totally unique in Europe and, likely, without much of a majority even in his own country.
To travel around France is to come to some understanding of why they feel that way. In small towns of 30,000 people, you see as many names listed on the always-present monument to the town's World War I dead as lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack. London suffered the blitz and every German city was leveled in World War II. It's not that they value human life any less, it is that they are accustomed to losing it more often.
But the roots of European passivity, in the face of global terrorism, go deeper into their psyches. They witness the determination, zeal, mobilization and idealism of the American commitment to make war on terror with a jaundiced cynicism.
In Europe, it's not cool to get hot and bothered about issues like that. It violates the cafe sophistication which insists, in a cloud of cigarette smoke, on seeing a world with all shades of gray, rather than one polarized by good and evil.
Ennui is in. Energetic, righteous indignation is for the immature. You know, like Americans.
The Europeans see Bush as simplistic, shallow and over his head. When I explained that Bush didn't have any choice but to punish Iraq, a prominent associate of Lionel Jospin, the front runner in April's French presidential election, told me: "You better be careful, everybody is coming to hate the United States."
Indeed, in continental Europe the best that those who pass for pro-American can say is "Watch it, the Americans are really sensitive here, let's not offend them." Our best friends nod wearily and say they hope that we get over our anger before we cause too much damage. Those less inclined to like us see U.S. "unilateralism" as a danger only slightly less than terrorism and worry that we are indulging in imperialism when we claim to be seeking justice.
To speak with European journalists is to experience a continent-wide Stockholm Syndrome in which the victim is always identifying more with his captors than with those who would rescue him.
The Europeans look at American flag-waving and patriotism with the jaundiced eye of people who have seen extreme nationalism underpin fascism and Nazism. Our very outpouring of love of country seems to bring to European minds Hitler's rallies at Nuremberg. It is as if displaying even their own national flags is a bit awkward and possibly dangerous if carried too far.
When I reminded one journalist, "We helped you twice in the last century when you were under attack and we expect you to help us now," she recoiled and said, "Oh, it was nothing like 9/11, Germany invaded us." Apparently, except for the United Kingdom, the Atlantic is a one-way ocean.
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